Movin’ on Uptown

Former Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Director Maude Lovelle takes the reigns of Uptown’s business association

Uptown business owners beware: Maude Lovelle is looking for you, and she’s hungry for information.

The Uptown Association board of directors recently hired Lovelle to be the business association’s executive director. The Shoreview, Minn. resident and former director of the Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce started April 30.

Former Uptown Association Director Cindy Fitzpatrick held the position for about a decade before announcing plans to resign in November 2005. She originally planned to stay on for a year in a different position to get the association through the art fair – the organization’s signature fundraiser – but the hiring process didn’t move forward, and she continued to serve as executive director. In the fall of ’06, she decided it was time to let go completely.

“As a nonprofit executive tenures, you start to become part of the problem,”

Fitzpatrick said. “I just couldn’t get excited about the same issues anymore.”

The Uptown Association Board was sad to see her go. Board member Brad Bridwell said the organization “dragged its feet” after she initially announced plans to resign.

“She has generously given her time,” Bridwell said. “We thought Cindy was an awesome executive director. We as a board didn’t handle (her departure) as well as we should have, quite frankly.”

Bridwell, who was on the committee that hired Lovelle, said nine people were interviewed for the position and many more applied. Lovelle, who has a strong background in managing, event planning, public relations and other fields, rose to the top.

Fitzpatrick said she has worked with Lovelle on a couple events and was confident in her abilities.

Lovelle took on her new role after 10 years working in Northeast Minneapolis. She’s not from Uptown, but she’s a fan of the area’s art fair and a serious Uptown shopper and diner. She also has a strong interest in urban development.

Lovelle hopes to improve the Uptown Association’s value as a resource for area businesses, residents and visitors.

The Southwest Journal recently sat down with Lovelle to talk about her new job. Below are some highlights from the interview.

SWJ: Why did you apply for this job?

Lovelle: The new challenge, the intrigue of working in another great community with a fabulous signature event being the Uptown Art Fair. The opportunity to use some of the skills I’ve learned … Being able to bring my experiences to another area that was looking for someone with my experience was a great match.

SWJ: What’s your experience in the Uptown Area?

Lovelle: (Laugh) My experience right now has been as a tourist. Unfortunately, I’m not as knowledgeable about the businesses and some of the issues here, but that is one of my immediate jobs to figure that out. I’m not worried about it. I’m not concerned about it…

I have done, obviously before I took this job, a lot of research on what’s happening here and find that my experiences in working with the community are a really good match for this. I’ve eaten and been entertained here – you know in hindsight I wish I had done more – but that’s OK. Change is good.

SWJ: What do you think the state of business is in Uptown?

Lovelle: I think it’s like a lot of parts of the city. There are strong, long-surviving businesses, that define the fabric of the community and are destination points. And then there are different, unique businesses, and there’s the businesses that come and go, that can’t survive for one reason or another. There’s always a mixture of the more traditionally known businesses that we’re all familiar with, franchises if you will, mixed in with those other things … That’s not that uncommon, but it’s how it all works together down here sprinkled in with the entertainment aspect and with a really good residential population that really makes this place pretty darn special.

SWJ: Some say retail in Uptown is struggling. Do you think that’s true? If you do, is there anything the Uptown Association can do about it? If it’s not true, is there anything the Uptown Association can do to eliminate that misconception?

Lovelle: I think it probably is true. From all that I’ve heard and read, I do think it’s true. What I need to determine as quickly as I can is how this organization fits into that and how they can help with that struggle because there always will be struggles … That’s going to be one of the very first things I do is get a handle on that.

As a business association, that is something I believe is very, very important for (the organization) to – at the very bottom rung – be knowledgeable about. Then up the rungs of the ladder are involvement, support, resources, etc., etc., all the way up to totally supporting or not supporting something. I don’t have that pulse yet, but I’m going to get that pulse really quickly because I think that’s part of the purpose of a membership organization in the community that it serves.

SWJ: How do you plan on doing that?

Lovelle: I’m taking off the high heels, I’m putting on the gym shoes and I’m walking. I’m going to talk to members and non-members because everyone’s opinion is valuable. I’ll probably have some predetermined questions based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read.

SWJ: Do you have a vision for your position or for the Uptown Association as a whole?

Lovelle: I think that any new person would like to take a very well-established organization up to a higher level, meeting their needs and trying to find their place in the community. The executive director’s job is to make that happen with a lot of other stakeholders and that’s what I plan on doing.

SWJ: The main focus of the Uptown Association in the past has been the Uptown Art Fair. It’s almost become what the Uptown Association is. Will that continue to be the focal point?

Lovelle: I think it will always be their signature event, but I would also like to see other events – whether they are entertainment, educational, networking – in addition to that throughout the year because I think that’s what keeps a community together … This organization has been in a very unique position in that they have a signature event that defines them, but I also truly believe that you should never have one thing that defines who you are.

SWJ: Would you say you have a stake in Uptown?

Lovelle: Right now I don’t, but I’m going to have one pretty darn quick. I don’t think it’s a detriment that I don’t live in Uptown. Pretty soon, I will be their strongest proponent. I will know every business, I will know everything that goes on here and that which I don’t know I will learn because that’s what this role really is about.

For more information about the Uptown Association, visit www.uptownminneapolis.com.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.